Andy Kelk

Digital Technology Leader


The power of coffee

Reading this article recently, an interesting theory about coffee was raised:

The time of day people drink their coffee varies with Sydney waking up with their coffee, buying their first at 8am while Melbourne warms up to the idea, with peak coffee sales being at 9.30am.

“Most people in Sydney get their coffee on the way to work,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“In Melbourne, people tend to go to work and then go out to grab a coffee. It’s easier to walk out and get a coffee in Melbourne because of the number of cafes and just the terrain is easier.”

It got me thinking about the ritual of going out for a coffee with colleagues. I often see entire teams heading out for coffee together and spending time talking while they walk and wait. One of the teams I worked with in Melbourne had this as a ritual directly after their morning stand-up. The conversations that came out of the morning stand-up were had during the daily coffee run. We were lucky to have a really good coffee shop on the ground floor of the building.

Having large numbers of people standing outside the building getting coffee at 9:30 or 10 led to some interesting conversations about the “optics” of people getting coffee when “they should be working.” Actually, I would posit that the time spent getting coffee was some of the most valuable in the day. The team who went and got coffee together every morning were one of the most gelled teams in the company and this translated into their effectiveness for the rest of the day.

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Another workplace I heard about uses coffee as a way to integrate new starters. Every new starter is given a pre-paid coffee card and is invited to take out five people for coffee to get to know them. Taking people out of their natural environment immediately puts the new starter and the experienced team member on a more even playing field. And building strong relationships early on is critical to succeeding in any company.

I’ve also personally experienced the power of coffee to smooth over a dispute. A simmering tug-of-war over a work matter was put to rest not in a meeting room where the stakes would be high but over a cup of coffee. Learning to see your colleagues as people outside of the office, even if it’s just two doors down over a cup of coffee is helpful to allow compromise and negotiation.

All of this is really another manifestation of Linda Rising’s “Do Food” pattern. Never underestimate the power of eating (and drinking) with those you work with.


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